#AirPollution; #Covid19; #ESA; #ESACopernicusSentinel5PMission; #Europe; #Tropomiinstrument
New York/Canadian-Media: Nationwide lockdowns put in place to stop the spread of COVID-19 during early 2020 coincided with a decline in air pollution shown by the data collected from satellites. The reverse situation prevailed one year later with relaxation of restrictions of the lockdown and prevalence of regular activities in some countries when nitrogen dioxide levels bounced back to pre-COVID levels, European Space Agency (ESA) news reports said.
ESA. Image credit: Wikipedia
On 23 January 2020, the world saw the first coronavirus lockdown come into force in Wuhan and similar measures were then put in place worldwide in the following weeks and months which resulted in a significant reduction in air pollutants across China as detected by satellites. including reduced emissions of nitrogen dioxide – a gas that pollutes the air mainly as a result of traffic and the combustion of fossil fuel in industrial processes.
With the ease of restrictions an year later, the average level of air pollutants has rebounded and is on the rise again. The maps below show the monthly average concentrations of nitrogen dioxide, derived from data from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite, in the central and eastern portions of China in February 2019, February 2020 and February 2021. The map shows the fluctuation in levels between the three periods, with dark red indicating high concentrations of nitrogen dioxide.
Nitrogen dioxide concentrations over China. Image credit: Official website of ESA
Nitrogen dioxide concentrations in Beijing, indicated by the data dropped by around 35 percent between February 2019 and 2020 before returning to similar levels in February 2021, whereas in Chongqing, nitrogen dioxide dropped by approximately 45 percent between February 2019 and February 2020, before returning to almost double pre-COVID numbers.
The data is collected by Tropomi instrument on board the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite – the first Copernicus mission dedicated to monitoring our atmosphere.
Claus Zehner, ESA’s Copernicus Sentinel-5P mission manager, says, “We expected air pollution to rebound as lockdowns are lifted across the globe. Nitrogen dioxide concentrations in our atmosphere do not depend on human activity alone. Weather conditions such as wind speed and cloud cover also affect those levels, however a large quantity of these reductions are due to restrictions being eased. In the coming weeks and months, we expect increases of nitrogen dioxide concentrations also over Europe.”
Claus continues, “The special features of the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite, with its high spatial resolution and accurate ability to observe trace gases compared to other atmospheric satellite missions, allows us to generate these unique nitrogen dioxide concentration measurement maps from space.”
Tropomi instrument, which is used to map a multitude of trace gases such as nitrogen dioxide, ozone, formaldehyde, sulphur dioxide, methane, carbon monoxide and aerosols is carried by the satellite.
#UNEP; #GreenRecovery; #Covid19Pandemic
UNEP/Canadian-Media: One year from the onset of the pandemic, recovery spending has fallen short of nations’ commitments to build back more sustainably.
Image credit: Twitter handle
An analysis of spending by leading economies, led by Oxford’s Economic Recovery Project and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), finds only 18.0% of announced recovery spending can be considered ‘green.’
The report, Are We Building Back Better? Evidence from 2020 and Pathways for Inclusive Green Recovery Spending, calls for governments to invest more sustainably and tackle inequalities as they stimulate growth in the wake of the devastation wrought by the pandemic.
The most comprehensive analysis of COVID-19-related fiscal rescue and recovery efforts by 50 leading economies so far, the report reveals that only $368bn of $14.6tn COVID-induced spending (rescue and recovery) in 2020 was green.
UNEP’s Executive Director, Inger Andersen: “Humanity is facing a pandemic, an economic crisis and an ecological breakdown - we cannot afford to lose on any front. Governments have a unique chance to put their countries on sustainable trajectories that prioritize economic opportunity, poverty reduction and planetary health at once - the Observatory gives them the tools to navigate to more sustainable and inclusive recoveries.”
Brian O’Callaghan, lead researcher at the Oxford University Economic Recovery Project and the report’s author: “Despite positive steps towards a sustainable COVID-19 recovery from a few leading nations, the world has so far fallen short of matching aspirations to build back better. But opportunities to spend wisely on recovery are not yet over. Governments can use this moment to secure long-term economic, social, and environmental prosperity.”
“Our ability to better inform and monitor the investments made by countries to address the socio-economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic is vital to keep the green, inclusive recovery on track,” says Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator. “In this respect, the Global Recovery Observatory and UNDP’s Data Futures Platform offer policymakers a rich new set of data points and insights – expanding access to such resources will help to increase the transparency, accountability, and effectiveness of the investments being made now and their impact on our sustainable future.”
Professor of Environmental Economics at Oxford, Cameron Hepburn: “This report is a wake-up call. The data from the Global Recovery Observatory show that we are not building back better, at least not yet. We know a green recovery would be a win for the economy as well as the climate - now we need to get on with it.”
The report emphasizes that green recovery can bring stronger economic growth, while helping to meet global environmental targets and addressing structural inequality. To keep decades of progress against poverty from unwinding, low-income countries will require substantial concessional finance from international partners.
It raises five key questions for the road to sustainable recovery:
#India;#RiceProduction; #ClimateChange; #Adaptation; #WaterAvailability; #FAO;
New York/Canadian-Media: As the global population grows, the demand for food increases while arable land shrinks. A new University of Illinois study investigates how rice production in India can meet future needs by adapting to changing climate conditions and water availability.
Farm workers plant rice transplants at the Borlaug Institute for South Asia's research farm in Bihar, India. Credit: University of Illinois.
"Rice is the primary crop in India, China, and other countries in Southeast Asia. Rice consumption is also growing in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world," says Prasanta Kalita, professor in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering at U of I and lead author on the study.
"If you look at where they traditionally grow rice, it is countries that have plenty of water, or at least they used to. They have tropical weather with heavy rainfall they depend on for rice production. Overall, about 4,000 liters of water go into production and processing per kilogram of rice," he states.
Climate change is likely to affect future water availability, and rice farmers must implement new management practices to sustain production and increase yield, Kalita says.
The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates the world population will grow by two billion people by 2050, and food demand will increase by 60%.
"We will need multiple efforts to meet that demand," Kalita states. "And with two billion more people, we will also need more water for crop production, drinking water, and industrial use."
Kalita and his colleagues conducted the study at the Borlaug Institute for South Asia's research farm in Bihar, India. Farmers in the region grow rice during the monsoon season, when heavy rainfall sustains the crop.
The researchers collected data on rice yield and climate conditions, then used computer simulations to model future scenarios based on four global climate models. The purpose of the study was to estimate rice yield and water demand by 2050, and evaluate how farmers can adapt to the effects of climate change.
"As the weather changes, it affects temperature, rainfall, and carbon dioxide concentration. These are essential ingredients for crop growth, especially for rice. It's a complicated system, and effects are difficult to evaluate and manage," Kalita states.
"Our modeling results show the crop growth stage is shrinking. The time for total maturity from the day you plant to the day you harvest is getting shorter. The crops are maturing faster, and as a result, you don't get the full potential of the yield."
If farmers maintain current practices, rice yield will decrease substantially by 2050, the study shows. But various management strategies can mitigate the effects of climate change, and the researchers provide a series of recommendations.
Traditional rice farming involves flooding the fields with water. Rice transplants need about six inches of standing water. If fields aren't level, it requires even more water to cover the crops, Kalita says. However, if farmers use direct-seeded rice instead of transplants, they can increase production while using significantly less water.
Another practice involves soil conservation technology. "The soil surface continuously loses water because of temperature, humidity, and wind. If you keep crop residue on the ground, it reduces the evaporation and preserves water. Furthermore, when the crop residue decomposes, it will help increase soil quality," Kalita explains.
The researchers also suggest implementing strategies to prevent post-harvest crop losses. FAO estimates about 30% of crops are lost or wasted after harvest, so efforts to reduce those losses can further increase crop availability and food security.
Overall, the best approach to achieve a 60% increase in rice production while minimizing additional irrigation needs is a combination of conservation strategies and a 30% reduction in post-harvest loss, the researchers conclude.
#UN; #PolarVertex; #ClimateChange; #GlobalCarbonDioxideLevels
UN/Canadian-Media: A “polar vortex” was responsible for the freezing conditions in the US state of Texas last month, UN weather experts said on Tuesday, before warning of a worrying increase in global carbon dioxide levels.
Thomas Park: The US state of Texas endured unseasonably freezing temperatures in February 2021. Image credit: Unsplash
Spokesperson Clare Nullis from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) told journalists during a regular briefing in Geneva that the United States shivered through its coldest February since 1989, thanks to the natural phenomenon:
The vortex is “area of low pressure and cold air, surrounding either of the poles”, she said. “It normally keeps cold air in the Arctic, warmer air in the lower latitudes. It weakened this winter so that meant that the cold air came spinning out of the Artic…warm air by contrast went into parts of the Arctic.”
Ms. Nullis added that no less than 62 all-time daily cold minimum temperature records were broken in the United States from February 11-16, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Cold records, ‘becoming rarer
’February temperatures were also well below the 1991-2020 average over much of the Russian Federation and North America, but they were well above average over parts of the Arctic, and from northwest Africa to southern Europe and China.
The UN agency also cautioned that although February was a relatively cold month, this does not negate the long-term warming trend from climate change.
“Cold records are becoming rarer, in contrast to heat temperature records and heatwaves. We expect this trend to continue”, WMO said in a statement.
Globally, February 2021 was close to the 1991-2020 average, but 0.26 degrees Celsius warmer than the 1981-2010 average. This value represents the coldest monthly anomaly for almost six years, according to the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service.
Emissions keep rising
According to the latest data on carbon dioxide concentrations, greenhouse gas concentrations continue to rise.
Citing the Mauna Loa station in Hawaii - a benchmark reference station – Ms. Nullis noted that average carbon dioxide concentrations in February were 416.75 parts per million, up from 413.4 parts per million in February 2020.
“The fact that we had a relatively cold month does not negate climate change, it does not reverse the long-term trend in rising temperatures due to global warming, climate change”, she said. “The fact that we’ve got COVID-19 which temporarily put a brake on emissions last year does not mean that the need for climate action is diminishing.”
Mayors, Scientists and Communities along the Mississippi River come together to tackle plastic pollution
#MississippiRiver; #PlasticPollutionInitiative; #environment; #ecosystemHealth
Washington, D.C./Canadian-Media: The Mississippi River Plastic Pollution Initiative was launched today at the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative’s ninth annual Capitol Meeting, where mayors representing over 100 communities along the river corridor are convening to address critical issues that impact the nation’s most important waterway, including plastic pollution.
Plastic pollution. Image credit: Unsplash
Marine debris that continuously enters the Mississippi River poses a large threat to environmental quality and ecosystem health. As the drainage system for 40% of the continental United States, plastic waste and other litter travels through storm drains and smaller waterways into the river and its tributaries, ultimately making way to the Gulf of Mexico and into the ocean.
Approximately 8 million metric tons of plastic enter the oceans each year, with rivers contributing to a significant portion of that amount. In 2016, the U.S. generated 42.0Mt of plastic waste, the largest amount of any country in the world, and was the third-largest contributor of mismanaged plastic waste to the coastal environment globally.
“We enthusiastically applaud the Mayors from along the Mississippi River for tackling the critical challenge of plastic pollution in our rivers and marine environments,” said Barbara Hendrie, Director of UN Environment Program’s North America Office. “With just 9% of all plastic being recycled globally, we have to work together to address the way we produce, use and dispose of single-use plastic.”
To combat this problem, state legislators and Mayors from all ten states along the Mississippi River made a commitment to reduce plastic waste in the Mississippi River Valley in September 2018. To support this goal, the Mississippi River Plastic Pollution Initiative will generate the first-ever snapshot of plastic pollution along the river.
“As one of the world’s most vital waterways, it is incumbent on us to pilot efforts that will help ensure major rivers stop contributing to the plastic pollution of our oceans,” said Sharon Weston Broome, Mayor of Baton Rouge, LA, and MRCTI Co-Chair. “Mississippi River Mayors are taking action by mobilizing local communities and working with key partners to deal with single-use plastic pollution to protect our planet and people.”
This initiative will begin with data collection in three pilot locations along the length of the river: Baton Rouge, Louisiana; St. Louis, Missouri; and St. Paul, Minnesota. The data, which will be collected throughout April 2021, will be generated through a ‘citizen science’ approach, enlisting the participation of thousands of community volunteers.
“Citizen science allows us to work together with communities to capture data on what is entering the environment, close to the source,” said Jenna Jambeck, Distinguished Professor in Environmental Engineering at the University of Georgia and National Geographic Fellow. “This scale of data collection would be impossible without the participation of thousands of community members along the river to inform upstream solutions to plastic pollution.”
The data collected will generate a critical baseline for decision-makers in both the private and public sectors, against which to judge the success of their efforts to reduce plastic pollution flowing into the river and to inspire effective policy action.
Under the leadership of the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative (MRCTI), the Mayors of the Mississippi River in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), National Geographic Society, and the University of Georgia, launched the initiative.